Ranger Station Episode 43: Something Fishy
With 800 episodes over the course of 22 years, the Power Rangers television show is arguably the single most successful live-action superhero franchise of all time, and certainly one of the strangest. Adapted from Japan's long-running Super Sentai series, created by manga legend Shotaro Ishinomori, the Power Rangers combined the giant robots and monsters of their Japanese counterpart with a completely different set of secret identities and problems, and became a pop cultural phenomenon. That's why we're looking back with an in-depth guide to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, including its source material, Kyuoryu Sentai Zyuranger, in ComicsAlliance's Ranger Station!
This week, Billy conquers a fear that resulted from what is, by any reasonable standard of superheroes, the mildest possible childhood trauma.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 43: Something Fishy
Writer: Cheryl Saban
Director: Robert Hughes
Original Air Date: February 9, 1994
So you remember how last week, I was talking about how certain themes tend show up a lot on Power Rangers, but occasionally the show just straight up recycles something for another round? Well, it turns out that I probably could've taken a cue from the show and just pasted that into this week's column, too. It's not the monster that's being recycled this time, though - although weirdly enough, the Goo Fish will be coming back for two more appearances before the end of the Zordon Era --- it's the subject matter.
This marks the third episode of Power Rangers where someone has to Conquer Their Greatest Fear. The fourth --- maybe even fifth! --- if you count "Islands of Illusion." And honestly, while kids can certainly relate to being afraid of things, I have to imagine having access to a giant robot dinosaur would lessen my anxieties quite a bit. At the very least, devoting 11.6% of the show so far to having Power Rangers face their mundane phobias seems a bit excessive.
For Trini, it was heights, and for Zack, spiders. Now, it's Billy's turn, and while you might hope that being the smartest Ranger would give him a highfalutin fear like, say, the heat death of the universe, it turns out that the Blue Ranger's greatest fear is... fish.
Amazingly, Billy's love of five-dollar words somehow does not lead him to refer to this as ichthyophobia. Either way, while Jason, Trini, and Zack head out to do some scuba diving to check out a "cool reef" that Jason found (and while Bulk and Skull go fishing in a local pond that 100% does not have any fish in it), Billy and Kimberly are going to stay on dry land, enjoying a picnic in the park.
With the team splitting up, it's the perfect time for a safety lesson from Jason, who is both the Red Ranger and a Certified Diving Instructor.
Now, this might just be my sheltered upbringing talking, but as far as moral lessons from children's programming go, this one doesn't seem like it would have a lot of relevance to the average youngster. To be honest, I feel that way about most of your Knowing Is Half The Battles or Sailor Moon Sayses, but while I can concede that it's possible to run into some downed power lines or think it was a good idea to play in an abandoned refrigerator, I honestly can't envision a world where kids are engaging in dangerously unsupervised scuba diving to the point where it has to be addressed on national television.
But better safe than sorry, I guess. Check your valves, kids.
What they don't tell you to do, though, is open up to one of your best friends about your greatest fear while you're enjoying outdoor sandwiches.
When Kimberly asks him why he's afraid of fish, Billy explains that his fear stems from an experience when he was a child. See, one day, Billy was nerding it up at the pond --- the exact same pond they're at now, which is also the exact same pond, albeit from a slightly different angle, where Bulk and Skull are trying to catch fish --- when a fish bit his finger while he was trying to create a whirlpool.
As far as motivating trauma goes, it's not exactly watching Joe Chill gun down your parents in an alley. Billy takes it pretty seriously, however, and when Kimberly responds to his story by laughing in his face and saying "that's hilarious!" with all the empathy and kindness that she usually reserves for Bulk and Skull, he seems genuinely hurt.
Still, Billy's reluctance to eat a fish sandwich is the least of their worries. The second they finish lunch, they're attacked by a gang of Putty Patrollers --- so many Putty Patrollers that the two Power Rangers are in danger of being overwhelmed, despite the fact that their opponents seem content to just sort of run around in circles being a nuisance.
With the other Rangers still enjoying their time underwater, Billy and Kimberly eventually defeat the Putties themselves with the help of an empty cooler upside the head.
Considering this has happened 42 times before now, it's no surprise that Billy's "intuition" tells him that an attack by Putties is the first part of a larger plan. Sure enough, Zordon confirms that Rita has "unleashed the terrible Goo-Fish," which might be the filthiest-sounding piece of dialogue in the entire show.
Thanks to a combination of his pre-existing phobia and a spell from Rita, Billy finds himself paralyzed by fear even after he's morphed, but the good news is that the other three Rangers are finally finished checking out a cool coral reef --- a cool coral reef that we, the viewers, never get to see --- and are ready to jump into action.
The thing is, when they do, the Goo Fish retreats almost immediately, leaving the Power Rangers to head back to the Command Center and congratulate themselves on a job well done while there's still like nine minutes left in the episode.
And for Power Rangers, nine minutes might as well be half a season.
To their credit, the Rangers are well aware that they're not done with the Goo Fish yet, and decide to turn their attention to the problem of Billy's fear of fish. Shockingly --- shockingly, I say --- it turns out that the only way to defeat Rita is for Billy to face his fear and overcome it! I mean, yeah, that might seem like a tall order with only eight more minutes in the episode, but since Trini overcame a fear of falling off a mountain, one of the most rational fears there is, in about 30 seconds, I'm sure everything here will be fine.
The question, of course, is how to do it. Are they just going to take Billy on an informative (and fun!) trip to the aquarium? Drag him to Red Lobster and ply him with Cheddar Bay Biscuits? Embark on a quest for revenge to kill the fish that bit him all those years ago?
No. They're just... they're just gonna go fight the monster and hope it all works out.
This is, I think you will agree, not the best plan.
Sure enough, Billy starts freaking out as soon as the Goo Fish sets its sights on him. Even though Jason is quick to intervene and save his teammate, he --- along with Zack and Trini --- end up stuck fast to the ground on a famously rocky California beach by the Goo Fish's... goo.
With the other Rangers in peril and Kimberly in danger of being blown up by an explosive starfish, Billy finally does the same thing Trini did back in Episode Two, and just decides not to be scared of things anymore. That's how you overcome a crippling phobia, right? Just stop? Right.
It works for Billy, and after he does some very brave stabbing with his Power Lance, RIta throws her wand and we go into the Giant Monster portion of the episode. Two minutes later, the Goo Fish is done and dusted.
From there, it's back to the youth center with the revelation that Billy has thoroughly conquered his fear, to the point where he and Ernie have gone on a fishing trip together and returned with a catch to cook up for the kids. Because when you really want to stop being afraid of something, you have to face it, and then immediately kill and eat it.
In Ranger Station, each episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers will be graded on a scale of one to ten in five categories, with a final score awarded with a maximum of fifty points.
Weirdness of the Monster: You'd think that if they were going to call it the Goo Fish, the whole thing with the Goo would be right up front, but it's not until very late in the episode that he starts shooting blue paint out of a hose stuck in his mouth to stick people's feet to the ground. 4/10
Radness of the Music: This episode has another moment where the Funeral March plays during a fight with the putties, and now that I'm hearing it again, I'm not really sure about it. Are we... are we meant to believe that the rangers are killing the Putties? And that they have funerals, with mourners and religious ceremonies? That's not a question that Power Rangers is capable of answering. 5/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: Skull literally buys Bulk a live lobster to make their bros fishing trip seem more impressive. 8/10
Moral Lessons: Always check your scuba equipment before you go diving, impossibly rich kids of 1993! 2/10
'90s Fashions: Apparently "land up" is British slang, so I guess Trini's not weird, she's just cultured? 5/10
Total For Episode 43: 24/50